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STeMS Colloquium. The Science of Hearts and Minds: Psychology and Counterinsurgency in the British Empire

Monday, October 6, 2014
12:00 AM
1014 Tisch Hall

Since the British Empire confronted a series of anticolonial rebellions after the Second World War, the idea of “winning hearts and minds” has featured prominently in the theory and practice of counterinsurgency. 

Because British campaigns from Palestine to Malaya to Kenya actually involved far more coercion than persuasion, many historians have since interpreted the rhetoric of “hearts and minds” as a cynical cover for brutal violence. 

In this talk, Linstrum takes this rhetoric seriously as a clue to why the British pursued the strategy they did — and as a point of entry into the uses of expertise in the postwar empire.

The colonial state tried not only to defeat insurgents but to understand and influence them through the tools and techniques of psychology. Their attempts often produced questionable results and revealed deep fissures between human scientists and the colonial state.